"Varanasi - Testament to Faith" Varanasi by lynnehamman
Varanasi Travel Guide: 647 reviews and 1,505 photos
"Benares is older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend, and looks twice as old as all of them put together."
What more can one say about Varanasi.......City of many names ( Kashi Benares Varanasi), that has not already been said. I will give just a few of my thoughts & impressions of this unforgettable experience that is Holiest City to all Hindus.
We arrived by train, from Calcutta, expecting the usual chaos at the station, but there was none. Everything went smoothly and we found a cab that took us to our hotel. Because of a certain kind of madness that comes upon us whenever we are in India, we had only booked the night before,on the train. I got out the trusty Lonely Planet Guide, & my mobile phone, and we found this hotel, Hotel Ganges View, at Assi Ghat.It was perfect. with a view of the Ganges
Although Varanasi is the city where all Hindus would like to finally close their eyes , and we saw old people lying on the Ghats, waiting to die....,there is no sadness here. Dying & death are part of life, and are accepted as just that, by Hindus. But to die in Varanasi, one achieves Moksha, which is liberation from the circle of re-incarnation, and finds eternal peace. Death is a business here.....at the cremation ghats, barbers shave the heads of sons, who have lost a loved one...woodsellers sell wood for the pyres, and the "doms" are waiting to supervise the cremation. The teeming lanes echo with the chanting of men, carrying flower bedecked corpses to the pyre. And everywhere, the pervasive smell of burning flesh.We got used to it after a few hours....there was so much happening. We watched a cremation. There was no sadnes, just acceptance. The ashes are then strewn back into Mother Ganga.
An interesting observation regarding the caste system in India- the Doms, who oversee the cremations- are from the lowest cast. Brahmin caste would avoid them under all instances. However, even a Brahmin cannot have a cremation without the attendance of a Dom. So what goes around comes around.
Every evening there is a ceremony on the banks of the Main ghat, with thousands of baskets with lighted candles floating down the Ganges, back to the sea. This is done in rememberance of a loved one,and as an offering to Mother Ganga.
The arti (puja) is performed by 6 priests, and is fascinating to watch.A truly spiritual atmosphere filled the air, made perfumed by the incense that was used in the puja.
Many hundreds of people watch this ceremony every evening at sunset.
3000 years old, Varanasi is the oldest city in the world that has had continual habitation. It is also believed to be the religious & cultural centre of India. The Benares Hindu University is attended by students from all over India.
The practice of Ayurvedic medicine originated in Varanasi.
Buddha preached his first sermon from Sarnath, a nearby town.
- In a nutshell:One cannot leave this city feeling unaffected.
There are many many opportunities to learn Yoga & Meditation in Varanasi. The problem of 'fake' yoga teachers and gurus... more travel advice
During the monsoon season, the water level of the Ganges at Varanasi rises dramatically. There are water marks clearly... more travel advice
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